companions like Hussain’s
by Aqeela Naqvi
It is the night of the 9th of Muharram.
In Karbala, the waves of the Euphrates River murmur a song of sorrow and loneliness. There is an eerie stillness in the air as even the whispering sands of the desert hold their breath, knowing what tragedy is about to unfold.
For nearly fifty years since the death of Prophet Muhammad (ص), a darkness has begun to spread across the world.
In his final days, people who consider themselves to be the companions of the Prophet come to visit him. He tells them to bring him a paper on which he may write his final will. He wishes to write down instructions, which, if followed, would prevent the Muslims from leaving the true path of Islam. But a seed of corruption has already taken root in the hearts of many of those around him, and they refuse to grant his request. The words of the Prophet, even before he has left this world, are ignored.
The Prophet turns his face away from them – men who have claimed to be his companions by being by his side physically, but who have never truly been his faithful companions spiritually. He looks instead at the faces of the Ahlul Bayt, the People of his House, and feels a sense of peace. These are the true companions of his soul. They are flesh of his flesh and blood of his blood. They are nothing but pure reflections of him, and together, they are all reflections of Allah (swt).
Prophet Muhammad feels peace as they sit by his side, but also a sense of sadness. Because he knows that even though he has left clear instructions, even though Allah (swt) has ordered him to tell the people that these are the leaders to be followed after him as the true guardians of Islam – he knows that the people are already preparing to abandon them.
With sorrowful eyes, he looks at his daughter, Sayyida Fatima tuz-Zahra (ع). She reminds him so much of his beloved wife, Sayyida Khadija (ع). He has made it clear to all throughout his life that he loves her dearly; that her pleasure is his pleasure, and her anger is his anger. His daughter has tended to his wounds and has comforted his heart when the people threw stones at him, refusing to listen to the message of Allah (swt). Who will comfort her heart when the people will take away her rights after him?
It pains his heart to know of the wounds they will inflict, the injustices they will carry out; to know that she will be left weeping, wa Muhammada… to know that they will bring fire to her door, will crush her ribs, will strike her with a whip, will bruise her skin, until there is nothing left but for her husband to bury her body secretly in the night.
With tears, he looks upon the brother of his spirit, Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib (ع). When no one believed in him, even as a young boy, Ali believed in him. When no one was there to support him, even in his youth, Ali was his right hand. When no one else could bear the secrets of the universe, it was Ali that he whispered them to. No one else was worthy, and Allah (swt) commanded – it is Ali who will lead the Muslims after you.
Even though Prophet Muhammad has told the people many times: “For whoever I am his Mawla, Ali is his Mawla” – he knows that they will claim they never heard him. And while Ali will be digging the grave of the Prophet and praying the final prayer over his body, in another place will be a gathering, people plotting amongst themselves about who will replace the Prophet as Allah (swt)’s authority on earth.
Prophet Muhammad knows with a heavy heart what is to befall Ali and Fatima. And it is with an even heavier heart that he looks at his grandchildren and kisses their hands. He knows what evil they will have to face. He knows that each of their battles will require a different type of courage.
He looks at the beautiful face of his grandson, Hassan (ع), who will be abandoned, questioned, and disrespected by the Muslims; who will be oppressed in his life, and oppressed in his death, as even his coffin will be struck with the rain of arrows.
And finally, he looks at his darling grandson, Hussain (ع).
The same grandson about whom he has said, “Hussain is from me, and I am from Hussain.” The same grandson, who, fifty years from now, will be left all alone, the blood of his loved ones staining his clothes as he stands, covered in wounds, on the plains of Karbala…
It has been fifty years since his grandfather has left this world, and Imam Hussain has watched as his mother, father, and brother were brutally oppressed and murdered.
Now, he is the last of the five that remains.
It is the night of the 9th of Muharram, and, like the desert sands, Imam Hussain, too, knows what is coming. Death waits, just over the horizon.
Yazeed has taken over the leadership of the Muslims, and has demanded that Imam Hussain support him as the rightful leader. But someone like Imam Hussain – someone whose every thought, word, and action, is not separate from Allah’s will, someone who is not just the true leader of Muslims, but the leader of every human who wishes to reach human perfection – someone like him, can never give his allegiance to someone like Yazeed: a tyrant, a man who lies, cheats, and steals; who abuses people, takes away their rights, and rules them with fear.
There were many Muslims who had written to Imam Hussain saying that they supported him as the true representative of Islam. But many were offered money to abandon him, while others were scared away with fear, and now, only a few loyal supporters remain. Imam Hussain’s cousin, Muslim bin Aqeel, and his sons, as well as his companion, Hani ibn Urwa, have already been murdered for supporting him and calling others to support him. The rest, a band of less than a hundred, stands with him now in Karbala, refusing to leave even though they know death is soon to come.
Imam Hussain calls his companions into a tent and says, “Consider this night which has come to you as a mounting Camel and save yourself, for the enemy does not desire anyone except me. After having killed me, they shall not pursue you. May God have mercy on you! Save yourselves…I lift the responsibility of the allegiance and pledge which you have taken at my hands.”
Imam Hussain has given them a chance to save their lives. To escape and return to their families, and to live out long lives with peaceful deaths, instead of being murdered tomorrow. There is no shame when their leader is granting them a way out. There is no shame, because if he turns out the candles, they can leave without being seen or embarrassed. But do any of his true companions choose to leave? No. There is not even a moment of hesitation.
Amongst them, one says: “Shall we forsake you?…By God! Even if I know that I shall be killed and then made to rise again, and then killed, and burnt, and my ashes scattered around, and this happens seventy times, even then I shall not forsake you…”
True companions are few and far between, and history has not seen the likes of this brotherhood – sitting now, shoulder to shoulder, in the silence of a forlorn desert.
Imam Hussain himself says:
إِنِيْ لاَ اَعْلَمُ اَصْحَاباً اَوْفَى، وَلاَ خَيْراً مِنْ اَصْحَابِيْ
“Surely, I do not know companions more faithful and better than my companions.”
For years, there have been many amongst the Muslims who said that they were the companions of his grandfather, Prophet Muhammad; his mother, Bibi Fatima; his father, Imam Ali; his brother, Imam Hassan.
But too many of them were simply companions that lived their lives beside them physically, but never truly stood with them as companions spiritually.
The men and women who are gathered in Karbala, however, are with the Imam in body and in spirit. They are prepared to let the arrows fly, the spears strike, and the swords cut. And when this happens, they will not feel a bit of pain because they know exactly what they are fighting for. Each of them knows that Imam Hussain is not just the leader of this religion; he is, in reality, religion itself. And to abandon his side is to abandon the message of Allah (swt).
Soon, the night begins to hum, like the sound of buzzing bees, as all those in Imam Hussain’s camp busy themselves in prayer. For many of them, this is the last night they will spend on earth. And there is no greater act in their eyes than spending each moment speaking to their Creator.
The night passes in this way, until dawn rises on that fated day…
the 10th of Muharram. Ashura.
“Here the Imam is not merely referring to their physical presence, but also alludes to their spiritual sanctity. In fact their apparent presence in the ranks of Imam al-Hussain in the plains of Karbala and their physical company depicted nothing but their spiritual company as well. This is because it required exalted spirits to remain steadfast in the ranks of the Imam despite the knowledge about their ephemeral end.”
[The Sacred Effusion, Shaykh M. Khalfan]
“Every sound conscience will agree that knowledge for perfection would reap love and attachment for the same. So long as one is ignorant of another, one cannot develop love for him. It is after acquiring knowledge about the perfect qualities of a certain person that one develops love and attachment for the beloved.
Furthermore, love requires the lover to be naturally inclined to the qualities of the beloved, otherwise the knowledge of the attributes of the beloved would not reap love. If a person, for example, has no inclination towards physical beauty, despite his knowledge of the physically beautiful, he would not develop love for the physically beautiful. It is when the heart naturally loves and appreciates beauty that when the beautiful is beheld, the spark of love is ignited and a raging fire follows.
The noble companions of Imam al-Hussain, having retained their innate nature, were natural lovers of Absolute Perfection (al-kamal al-mutlaq) and also enjoyed the ma’rifa of Almighty Allah,and that is what made them crave to meet their Only Beloved.”
[The Sacred Effusion, Shaykh Muhammad Khalfan]
“According to a tradition from Imam al-Baqir (ع) the army of al-Hussain (ع) did not feel the pain of the blows and wounds on the ‘Ashura’ day save a pinch… why is that? This is because the spirit is the origin of pain and happiness. One of you may fast and feel the pangs of hunger and thirst…whereas another would fast but we would find in him nothing but happiness and high-spiritedness…aren’t the physical conditions similar for both? So why is the first in torment while the second does not feel anything? This is because the spirit of the second is attached to a realm distant from the material conditions. Indeed the gallant warriors of Karbala’ were among those great spirits overcome by the unseen plane of existence.”
[Ayatullah Jawadi Amoli]